What were the best, worst, most surprising, and most intriguing moves this NBA offseason? Crossover staff weigh in.
What was the best move of the offseason?
Howard Beck: Rudy Gobert’s trade – and I’m not talking about the Minnesota side (although I liked that too). I know, “best move” usually implies “best acquisition”. But I’m going with Utah’s decision to cash in on Gobert for all those draft picks. It was bold and risky and will send the Jazz into the NBA cellar for the foreseeable future. But it was necessary. The Gobert-Mitchell era had become obsolete. There were no more advantages or avenues to improve. Taking down a 50-win team is tough. I admire the decision and the spoils.
Robin Lundberg: Malcolm Brogdon at the Celtics. The Eastern Conference champions have improved in subtle and smart ways. For a team that has occasionally been defeated by a lack of discipline in the NBA Finals, adding another high-IQ player who can also handle rock and make plays was good strategy. Now we’ll see if Boston is done with the big moves.
Manix: Minnesota has been ridiculed for bifurcating on years of future capital project for Rudy Gobert. But Gobert instantly makes ‘Wolves a top-10 defense and relieves huge pressure Karl Anthony Towns which, if he keeps making threes, will allay any worries about having two bigs on the floor. With Anthony Edwards about to take another step, you can comfortably put Minnesota in the top five in the Western Conference. From there, it will be up to Tim Connelly, one of the NBA’s top talent miners, to find the pieces that fit around them.
Rohan Nadkarni: the Nuggets pick up Bruce Brown was a perfect decision for them. Aaron Gordon desperately needed help on the defensive perimeter, and Brown gives Denver a legitimate option to throw at some of the West’s explosive guards and wings. Offensively, Brown should find plenty of open looks in play Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, either as a screen or as a spacer. The Nuggets needed more defensive toughness to be taken seriously as contenders. Brown gives them exactly what they were looking for.
What was the worst move of the offseason?
Beck: Kevin Durant’s trade request. Whatever his reasons – and those remain obscure – it is objectively a mistake from a basketball perspective. This may be the best roster the Nets have ever had. Of course, there is a lot of volatility (hello, Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons), but on paper, this team is a championship contender, with three All-NBA talents, flanked by two snipers (Seth’s Curry and Joe Harris) and competent actors. And Durant wants out? Which team – after trading assets to get Durant – will give him a better chance of chasing a title? If the goal is to win, his best move is to stay put.
Lundberg: Kevin Durant’s trade request. Whoever is responsible, KD, the Nets… it’s a mess! NBA fans love gossip and drama, but at some point player empowerment becomes a players right and I’m not sure it’s good for the league when stars under contract for four years ask . Let’s at least hope that we haven’t wasted our time and energy as a result of this and that there will be a resolution soon.
Manix: I understand that the Mavericks think Jalen Brunson is replaceable. Tim Hardaway Jr. will be back, Christian Wood was brought in and Luka Doncic still has the ball. But not paying Brunson — and that’s what it was ultimately about, the money — could haunt the Mavs for years to come.
Nadkarni: It’s not exactly a move, but the Heat losing PJ Tucker to the Sixers is a blow. Not only is Miami losing Tucker to a conference rival, the Heat have yet to replace him. Is Miami’s plan really to start the season with Caleb Martin as a power forward? Tucker’s defensive knowledge, willingness to keep stars, rebounding and shooting all contributed to the Heat’s success last season. His departure leaves a glaring hole on the roster and also adds to the regular season burden on veterans like Kyle Lowry and Jimmy Butler. While Tucker in a vacuum may not be an All-Star, the ripple effects of his departure are significant.
What was the most surprising decision of the offseason?
Beck: The Lakers’ failure to trade Russell Westbrook. Last season was a disaster. Westbrook is not getting any younger, better at shooting or defending or moving without the ball, nor (as far as we know) is more willing to accept a diminished role. There’s no reason to believe things will get any better this season. Yes, trading Westbrook means burning a first-round pick (or two) to entice a trade partner. But it’s the only rational way forward. And I always think it happens before opening night.
Lundberg: Rudy Gobert to Wolves. This move was surprising for two reasons: 1.) I would not have thought of Minnesota as a destination for Gobert given the presence of Karl-Anthony Towns and 2.) The return that Utah was able to provide Gobert. Rudy is still a very good player even if he’s a bit limited so it takes something to get a guy like that, but still it wasn’t what I expected.
Manix: Does Charlotte bringing back Steve Clifford count? The Hornets were stunned when Kenny Atkinson rejected their offer, so they turned to Clifford, who coached the Buzz from 2013 to 2018, twice leading them to the playoffs. Charlotte is a team in need of development, with rookie Mark Williams joining a young core led by LaMelo Ball, and Clifford has a solid track record there. He is also an excellent defensive coach. Charlotte has been in the top 10 defensive teams in three of its five seasons. The Hornets were 23rd last season, so they need help.
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Nadkarni: I mean, did anyone have the Jazz pick up four first-round picks (and one pick trade!) for Rudy Gobert? I still have no idea what I think of this trade. And the shocking transport definitely seems to have complicated the superstar’s acquisition price. If Gobert nets you four picks, how many do you need to get Kevin Durant? Do you need to throw in some ownership capital?
What was the most intriguing move of the offseason?
Beck: Acquisition of Dejounte Murray by the Hawks. No other offseason move has more potential to change a team’s trajectory. Will it work? Who knows? But Murray’s length, play and defensive abilities should be the perfect complement to Trae young. Both guards will have to adapt to have less control over the offense, and both may have to reduce their usage rate. But if they fit in well, it should solidify the Hawks as a top-six team in the East, and potentially as a contender on the road.
Lundberg: Dejounte Murray to the Hawks. I like the fit possible between Dejounte and Trae Young. And given the histrionics Murray showed in the summer runs and the fact that Spurs were willing to move away from him, to rebuild aside, it should be intriguing to watch the dynamic in Atlanta and find out if they can take a leap in the East.
Manix: Can a 37 year old man PJ Tucker have a playoff-level impact on another franchise? Box Daniel House shoot well enough to break the spin? What is James Harden at this stage of his career? On paper, the Sixers look like title contenders. But how they come together will determine whether they are.
Nadkarni: Dejounte Murray headed to Atlanta is a fascinating bet for the Hawks. The team then traded Kevin Huerter, signaling (in my opinion) that they are ready to pay off Murray in a few years and move forward with a core Trae Young-Dejounte. Murray’s talent was never in question. His fit with Young is. And theoretically, his arrival should adjust the style of play of Atlanta, which at least succeeded for Trae. While I’m not convinced it will definitely be a success, it’s the new partnership I’m most looking forward to seeing once the season begins.
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